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Western Price Survey / Archives

January 31, 2003
Hydro Makes its Mark

January has come and gone, and still the winter season is loath to send deep shivers down the West's spine. Temperatures in many regions this week were several degrees higher than recent averages while prices lay flat in the warming sun.

By Friday morning, however, power premiums had revived themselves, rising by as much as 9 mills/KWh at some hubs.

Rain in the Pacific Northwest sent hydropower coursing through the markets, adding downward pressure to prices midweek. "Prices came off substantially with all the water coming down the river," said one trader. "It's wet throughout the whole Columbia Basin and the Snake too."

The Bonneville Power Administration responded to the deluge by increasing its daily offer to 200 MW of peak and off-peak power for Saturday deliveries. Earlier in the week, BPA had offered 100 MW of peak supply and 50 MW of off-peak energy for deliveries occurring Wednesday through Friday. For Sunday-Monday supplies, BPA's offer returned to this level.

Despite this week's rains, storm clouds will have to redouble their efforts if the West is to have plentiful hydro resources this summer. Projected runoff as measured at The Dalles on the Columbia River stands at about 77.6 million acre-feet as of January 27; the January-July average is 106 million acre-feet.

At the Mid-Columbia hub, peak prices started the week at 40 mills, ebbed to 36 mills, and pushed up to 43 mills/KWh on Friday. Light-load premiums started the week at about 31 mills and dipped as low as 26.5 mills before finishing in the 35.75 mills to 37.5 mills/KWh range.

Trades at NP15 ranged from a high of 49.25 mills for peak hours to as low as 28 mills/KWh for some off-peak periods. At SP15, peak power reached 53.5 mills, with light-load prices going no lower than 28.5 mills/KWh.

Premiums at Palo Verde ranged from 39 mills to 48.75 mills for heavy-load hours, with off-peak trades drawing about 27 mills to 35.5 mills/KWh.

Real-time prices at the Alberta hub in Canada reached 480.88 mills/KWh during heavy-load hours, and demand peaked at 8,291 MW. On Friday morning, the price for the 7 am hour soared to 616.53 mills/KWh.

On the California Independent System Operator grid, load lolled just beneath the 30,000 MW threshold. Peak demand reached 29,681 MW on Monday and then fell bit by bit before notching up to about 29,900 MW on Thursday.

Leading Cal-ISO's list of unscheduled power plant outages was Arizona Public Service's Four Corners No. 4. Boiler tube leaks caused all 750 MW of output at the unit to drop off line Tuesday night. According to an APS spokesperson, the plant was already preparing to enter into a maintenance outage in a couple of days and has now entered that cycle early. The company expects to complete repairs to No. 4 within the next two weeks.

In addition, Duke Energy curtailed all 337 MW of capacity at its Morro Bay 3 unit and Pacific Gas & Electric pulled all 260 MW of La Paloma capacity from the grid.

At the Diablo Canyon nuclear complex, output at No. 2 stepped back to 96 percent. The plant is conserving supplies in advance of an upcoming refueling outage [Jason Mihos].

Gas Gets Short Attention Span

Confronted by a variety of indicators-warmer weather, lower demand from electric generators, rallying futures, dwindling fuel storage levels-Western gas prices this week seemed unable to find a comfortable stance. Premiums at most hubs started the week bolt upright, slumped midweek, began to resume their height Thursday and then gave up on Friday.

Thursday's gas storage figures as reported by the Energy Information Administration showed a net withdrawal of 247 Bcf for last week, with gas stocks in the West dropping 18 Bcf down to 296 Bcf.

Prices perked up after the EIA's announcement, but not in the rocket-propelled style seen a week ago. Permian supplies, having streaked to $6.25 last week, traded between $4.77 and $5.39/MMBtu. San Juan prices loafed around between $4.40 and $4.70/MMBtu.

At Topock, prices bumped between $4.81 and $4.91 midweek and reached a high of $5.10/MMBtu. CityGate prices slipped below the $5/MMBtu mark for some trades Wednesday but quickly bounced back, with trades running between $4.98 and $5.31/MMBtu. Malin gas traded in a range of $4.70 to $5.05/MMBtu.

Canada's AECO hub saw prices between $4.53 and $4.83/MMBtu [J. M.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week of January 27-31, 2003
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 28.17-616.53 10.19-172.54
Mid-Columbia 36-43 26.5-37.5
COB 39-44.5 27.25-31
NP 15 39-49.25 38-37.75
SP 15 41.5-53.5 28.5-36.5
Palo Verde 39-48.75 25.5-35.5

Archives of the Western Price Survey for the past year are also available online.


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